Manila— While walking one day during my routine errands, I saw street maintenance employees of city hall trimming one of my favorite trees in the neighborhood. Its leaves and branches have meshed with electric cables and its stringy stems hanging downward have draped the sidewalk.
It became one of my favorite trees because every time I stopped and looked up at its thick leaves, I felt safe and quiet and wanted to linger under its shade. The blue sky peered from its powerful branches and fluttering green leaves. It’s also one of the trees I first appreciated up close in one of my first ventures stepping outside during the hard lockdown last year while the pandemic was ravaging the world.
The day they trimmed my favorite tree was also the day I cut my long pandemic hair; long for me means a hair length way below my shoulders. So, like the pruned tree, my sheared short hair was ready to regrow. I was also ready for anything that’s possible in 2021.
But it’s been more than one year, and in my country, the pandemic is still raging. The constantly adapting virus is again infecting a record number of people. We are in the same scenario from a year ago. Globally, I read happier news of people being vaccinated, economies reopening safely, and travelers going to the best destinations in 2021, which were the places people listed when everything was hopeful in 2020.
No person I know would want to be in this situation all over again. But the truth is, while the environment continues shifting and the calendar keeps turning its pages so fast, we’re now in the second quarter of 2021, our reality is the same. We may have discarded the residues of 2020 but the pandemic is still ongoing. The virus that carries in its name the year when it was discovered and given an identity is actually bringing us back to that time, and it doesn’t have any plans of going away. We are not out of the woods yet.
It is sad that many of the struggles that we face will also continue. It is indeed the era of physical and social distancing, of staying where we are supposed to be safe, and of being encouraged to be mindful of our physical and mental health.
We took a deep breath and jumped the abyss of 2021. But in doing so, we know that this year— despite knowing it will throw some pain and difficulties on us – will chart its own course. And we were prepared for it. We survived last year, and today, we are thriving.
As for me, I offer some gratitude to the past year and the beginning of this year, as I found new ways of embracing togetherness and connection with friends despite distancing. I still carry with me the wonder and joy from last year’s exceptional experiences and journeys, such as my walks in deserted streets that I saw for the first time as wonderful, or the people I encountered who enhanced my sense of altruism.
The coming weeks and months are unpredictable, but with new mindsets, I can forget about the pandemic and plan on experiencing things that will make me laugh like crazy; even perhaps re-adjust and re-schedule journeys and plans that don’t fit into an unstable year. I’ve had enough drama from last year. This year, I will have more to add to my lifetime.
Diana Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org